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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 April 9 - 15  > Supreme Court restricts freedom of expression
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2008 April 9 - 15 [CIVIL RIGHTS]

Supreme Court restricts freedom of expression

April 12, 2008
The Supreme Court on April 11 upheld a lower court decision to fine three anti-war activists 100,000 to 200,000 yen for trespassing on a Self-Defense Forces’ housing complex in Tokyo’s Tachikawa City to distribute flyers against the SDF dispatch to Iraq.

At a press conference after the court ruling, the three said, “Distribution of flyers is an ordinary act, and we can never accept such an unjust ruling.

In the court trial, Onishi Nobuhiro, Takada Yukimi, and Obora Toshiyuki, who are members of the Tachikawa SDF Monitoring Tent Village, insisted that penalizing flyer distributors is in contravention of Article 21 of the Constitution, which guarantees citizens’ freedom of expression. They also said that even if their distribution of flyers should be regarded as trespassing, it should not deserve this punishment.

The Supreme Court ruling recognized that the distribution of flyers is within the range of “exercising the constitutional right to the freedom of speech,” but at the same time stated that such freedom “must not be respected as an absolute and unlimited privilege,” and no one is allowed to violate others’ rights in expressing their thoughts.

In December 2004, the Tokyo District Court acknowledged that technically, the distribution of flyers at a SDF housing complex was trespassing but ruled that their intention to express political opinions was justifiable, their entry into the SDF housing complex was appropriate, and the level of violation of privacy was low.

The district court pointed out that the act of distributing flyers is part of “constitutionally-guaranteed activities to express political opinions and the basis of a democratic society” and that it should be respected more than the distribution of commercial flyers. It concluded that their action did not warrant punishment.

However, the Tokyo High Court in December 2005 found them guilty on the grounds that even though their freedom of expression is guaranteed, they should not enter property contrary to the owner’s wish.

Arranged Arrest

It has been learned that the Ground Self-Defense Force intelligence security unit and police had conspired in the arrests of the three activists two months earlier. Akahata on October 12, 2007, reported that it obtained the GSDF unit’s internal document, which indicated that the Tachikawa Police Station requested cooperation by the SDF in arresting them on the spot two months before the arrest.

Onishi criticized the ruling for never mentioning that the arrest was political suppression conspired by the SDF and police. “It is further testimony to the crisis of Japanese democracy,” he said.
- Akahata, April 12, 2008
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